Djembe and Mande Music/Review Section 
(last revision 10/31/99)
TITLE: Rhythm and Beauty
SUBTITLE:  The Art of Percussion
ARTIST: Rocky Maffit
(Photography by Chris Brown)
FORMAT: Book (136)/CD
ISBN:  0-8230-8406-X
COMPANY: Watson-Guptill Publications, 
BPI Communications Inc., Lee Wiggins 
1515Broadway, New York, NY 10036 
PRICE: $35 retail ($27 at Amazon.Com)

A number of years ago, the back cover of Rhythm Music Magazine displayed a full page advertisement for what promised to be a great book: "Rhythm and Beauty: The Art of Percussion".  Unfortunately, almost immediately after the ad was printed, the original publisher went out of business, and the book was never released.

I've been sending quarterly "check in" email to the author, Rocky Maffit, ever since.  I am delighted to pass on the news that the book and companion CD have been published at long last... and the results are well worth the wait.

"Rhythm and Beauty: The Art of Percussion" is a stunning, 136 page coffee-table book presenting a vast array of percussion instruments. There are 4 main sections to the book:
Tonal Percussion focusing on melodically tuned percussion instruments such as gongs, mbira, balaphon, pan, gamelan, berimbau, bells and temple bowls.
Drums including talking drums, slit drums, tabla, American Indian drums, djembe, conga, bongos, doumbek, frame drums and taiko
Shakers, Rattles featuring the rainstick, rhythm sticks, bullroarer, sistrum, and Noise Makers, ankle rattles, maracas and other shakers and frattoir (or "scrub board")
Beyond Tradition covering a host of modern and experimental instruments such as ocean drum, udu, waterphone, wave drum and sound sculptures.

The book is richly illustrated with 120 gallery-quality photographs by Chris Brown. Virtually every page in the volume has a remarkable photograph detailing the instrument under discussion. Brown's use of light and colour lends a luminous quality which makes the instruments seem almost real.

Each of the photographs is accompanied by a description of the instrument, a pronuncation guide, stories about the instrument from its' culture of origin and information on background, construction and playing.

Maffit evidently devotes considerable time in the schools presenting "A World of Music", a  lecture-demonstration on percussion.  Far from being a dry, academic accounting, "Rhythm and Beauty" brims with Rocky's love for his topics. The book includes suggested reading, video and listening lists, and there is also a long list of dealers specializing in ethnic percussion in the United States.

To put the icing on the cake, the volume includes a 15 track compact disc recorded expressly for the book.  The tracks feature both traditional and original compositions intended the showcase the instruments in "Rhythm and Beauty". To put it simply, the music is wonderful - I'd recommend either the book or the CD for the retail price - to get them both as a package makes this product a really great value.

As Evelyn Glennie writes in the Forward - "The Art of Percussion is an ideal introduction to this amazing collection of instruments. I would have loved a book like this when I was starting out - something to deepen my experience and open my eyes."

If you are someone who'd love to have a beautiful, informative book detailing your percussion passion on display in your home, or have been trying to figure out a good Christmas gift for a percussive pal -  "Rhythm and Beauty: The Art of Percussion" could be the perfect solution.

m. wall

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